Back in May of 2018 I ranted about the “New Look for Gardeners Freaked out about Lyme Disease” using this image of a hazmat suit for yucks to illustrate the get-up I was using to prevent tick bites and potentially Lyme Disease.

Not so funny now that we’re accustomed to seeing people outfitted like this:

Dr. Clayton McCarl, dentist in Greenbelt, Md.

Or like this dentist – my dentist. He sent me the photo to illustrate a story I wrote about how his practice has responded to COVID.  (I’m too nervous to keep my own cleaning appointment. Trying to stay gum-healthy on my own.)

But about ticks, that post ended with “What, if anything, can I do in the garden without gearing up in protective clothing? Having found no answer to that question, here’s my plan: Just water. Touch no plants. Which makes this gardener just so sad.”

Well, of course I DON’T gear up in PPE every time I touch a plant. This year I’ve only been gearing for major projects like moving plants or getting in the middle of shrubs to prune them.

So how’s that been working out for me? I’ve had 5 tick bites so far – that I’ve found! So I called my primary care doc and she prescribed a one-time dose of doxycycline, with enough for four more bites. Here’s the idea:

An antibiotic taken within 72 hours of being bitten by a deer tick carrying Lyme disease can prevent people from developing the illness. Only about 3% of people who are bitten by ticks will develop Lyme disease, which is characterized by persistent fatigue and pain.

3 percent! I like those odds.

But more googling reveals that not all docs are prescribing it:

In [a] study of nearly 500 adults, a single dose — two pills — of the antibiotic doxycycline taken within 72 hours of being bitten was 87% effective in preventing Lyme disease. But because the antibiotic treatment causes side effects like nausea and vomiting in about 30% of people, experts say doctors shouldn’t give it unless the person is fairly certain the tick that bit them was fat — as opposed to flat, meaning it was somewhat engorged — and that it was indeed a tick.

Of course it’s chronic Lyme Disease that scares the bejesus out of me.

A small percentage of people who do contract Lyme disease will continue to have symptoms such as fatiguearthritis, muscle and joint pain, and mood and memory problems after undergoing the standard 10- to 21-day course of antibiotics. Some doctors treat this “chronic” Lyme disease with long-term antibiotics, but few studies have shown the treatment to be effective.

Reading this again does calm me down a bit – especially in light of the much more serious disease I’m hearing about every waking minute of every day.

But if I DID want to up my game this year and do a better job of avoiding ticks, these get-ups don’t look so awful.  Again, compared to medical PPEs.

Lyme Vaccine on the Horizon!

This post was prompted by the news of a vaccine against Lyme crossing my Facebook feed last week, which seemed to promise a safer, less freaked-out life for us gardeners.

Well, that happy bubble lasted until the end of the VERY FIRST SENTENCE:

A vaccine against Lyme disease has been shown to be safe and effective in a clinical trial and could be available by 2025.

So the prediction is for four more years of worrying about Lyme and even worse, extrapolating that whiplash of good-to-bad news to the future of a vaccine for COVID-19.

On that note, I’m gonna go garden.

PEE photo credit: Johnson and Johnson.